8 Wishes on My 47th Birthday

People ask, “What do you want for your birthday?”  So here’s a few things that I’ve come up with…

  1. I really want to know Christ better, to hear His voice clearer than I’ve EVER heard it before. To KNOW what it is like to be completely filled with and consumed with the Holy Spirit and follow Him with abandon!
  2. That I will be the best husband on the planet, that I will pursue Jennifer for the rest of my life, that I will do all that I can to make her feel beautiful and special, that I will honor the vows I took on June 27, 1992 and NEVER allow the church or anything else to replace her as the love of my life.
  3. That I will be an amazing father to Reagan, Micah, and Aidan…the kind of dad that after they move away and have families of their own, that they’ll WANT to come back and spend time with me.  I want to model for them what it means to follow Jesus.
  4. To continue to lead FCC where more people are giving their lives to Christ. I want to see what can happen in a church when people are COMPLETELY sold out to Him, refuse to play it safe and do ANYTHING SHORT OF SIN to reach people for Christ. I can do my job but I need the WHOLE church AND ultimately the Holy Spirit. So may God grant me the gifts and wisdom to do my best.
  5. To be a friend that loves, trusts, forgives, and believes the best about people, even people I disagree with and for some reason “don’t like.” I don’t want to be a complainer.
  6. To be a great leader worth following–one that refuses to use people, be manipulated by fear and/or throw my integrity away because I want anything more than honoring Christ.
  7. To write a book. Oh…this is the one that haunts me the second most on here.  I’ve got part of it written with ideas galore but how do I do it and not sacrifice anything above?  Pray that I would “find more time.”
  8. To obey God’s voice and live for His praise rather than giving in to the voices of mere humans who want something different than God. I want to please God, not man.
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Life Without Mom

So here’s my journal entry from June 7, 2001, right before my mom died from cancer when it was apparent she had little time left:

Can’t sleep.  Back in Grand Rapids.  Crying.

Questions: Why did she have to smoke? What will happen to dad?  How do I say goodbye?  How will this affect Lori & her kids?  What will life be like without mom?  Aren’t we without her now?  Is that where the pain comes from?  What are the pros/cons of a drawn out death vs. an instant, unexpected death like Brenda’s (my sister)?  Can I trust God now?  Will I trust God now?  What about my dad?  How bad will she (my mom) get before it’s over?  Will I have to do this for Jen?  She for me?  How will I die?

Regrets: Did I take her for granted?  Did I show my love enough?  I can’t be here for the whole thing which brings me some relief but also some guilt.

Memories: When she (as an elder) served at the Table with me in worship; when the whole family spent time in Orlando and mom & I snuck out to go to Magic Kingdom one more time, just the 2 of us; 1984 World Series; Bethany trips; playing Poker and Hearts and Rummy; when I was sick and she took care of me.

I read that 15 years later and it makes me cry.  But that’s OK.  Because I look back over these past 15 years and see God answered so many of my prayers.  I did trust God.  He did not fail me.  I am happy, though melancholy at times when I think about certain things.  God is good.  It has been a good quiet time.  This is why I journal.

What have you learned from grief and dying?  I’d love to learn from you.

Brenda

Yesterday would have been my sister Brenda’s 52nd birthday.  But she died at the age of 20, when I was 13 going on 14.  Not the best of times for me.  But I found a way to get lost in baseball that season.  That was the year of the ’84 Tigers.  They started the season 35-5 and cruised to an easy World Series championship.  And I was there to see it all.  Baseball, that summer, became my escape from reality.  I eventually dealt with the issues that surrounded losing a sister, but when you’re 13 going on 14, sometimes it’s best just to escape into something that isn’t harmful.

Not sure why I’m writing all that but just to say that I still miss her even though it’s been 32 years since she died (late May, 1984).  The scary thing is that as the years go by I have more trouble remembering specifics about her.  I remember what’s important.

Her smile. Her hair.

The way she was.

I guess I do remember her.  If only it was clearer.  She became a Christian the year before she died.  I’m looking forward to getting reacquainted with her one day.  Love you sis!

The Parenting Scam: 20 Lies Some Parents Believe

There is something wrong with parenting today. Maybe it’s not just parenting, but the barrage of change that we’ve had to confront as we parent. The changes in living our lives in terms of technology has had a profound impact on how our children are developing. And I’m pretty sure it’s not for the better! Talk to teachers and other people who have worked for children for more than ten years and they will tell you school-age children today are not the same as they were even 10-20 years ago. Children are categorically “less able” than they were in the 1980s.

I didn’t discover this. I’ve read others’ observations and then looked around anecdotally. I’m afraid they are on to something! But just google John Rosemond or Julie Lythcott-Haims if you want to read more authoritative sources on the topic. But here’s their conclusion: the evidence that current parenting (among other cultural changes) is having a significant detrimental effect on young people has been established.

The reason no one is talking about it is because the ultimate consequences of this have not been seen and may not be seen for another 10 years. Perhaps it’s because the alternative narrative is an easier pill to swallow: do as much as you can for your children, give them every advantage, pave the road for them, and they will succeed.

I don’t know how this will play out, but I am convinced we are raising a generation of children who will become adults poorly equipped to face life’s challenges.

Why?

Because there are certain LIES that the world has told parents they must believe. Here’s 20 I could think of thanks to Wendy Calise of Countryside Montessori School.

  1. Parenting is a constant joy.
  2. Good parents provide constant fun.
  3. Good parents devote every moment of their free time to their children.
  4. Good parents send their children to lots of classes that develop skills that will look great on their resumes.
  5. Good parents prevent failure.
  6. Good parents frequently intervene on behalf of their children.
  7. Good parents do not allow suffering.
  8. Good parents do not abandon children to do things on their own.
  9. Good parents do not force their children to entertain themselves.
  10. Good parents never allow their children to get hurt.
  11. Good parents do not expect their children to make contributions to the household.
  12. Good parents are partners with their children, not figures of authority.
  13. Good parents are always liked by their children.
  14. Telling children how great they are will make them feel great and actually be great.
  15. The more you do for your children, the better prepared for their future they will be.
  16. If children put up a big fuss, you must be doing something wrong and should change your parenting choices.
  17. Parents don’t have to be the ADULTS in the room.
  18. Consequences are harsh and old-fashioned.
  19. Engagement in screen time has no negative consequences.
  20. If you do it right, your teenagers will be your friends and tell you everything.

These lies are a slow bloodletting of our children’s efficacy, of their chance to be intelligent, empathetic, creative, competent, resilient, determined adults, everything we want for them when we hold them as infants.

I have more to say but prefer to be this a conversation. Does this resonate with you? Why? What other lies would you add that parents are buying into?

Parents…Please set the Agenda for your Children

I’m grieved by how many parents abdicate their responsibility to set the priorities for their children.  Too many parents are listening to the world and to the “easy way” and letting their children decide things that children weren’t meant to decide.  We make our kids go to school, brush their teeth, go to sleep.  We want them to be active in things outside of home and school so we sign them up for athletic teams or lessons to learn an instrument.  Those are all good things…and we do the same thing.  But my goal is never to substitute a good thing for a GREAT or BEST thing.

I would absolutely love it if one of my kids went to college on an athletic scholarship.  But I’m not going to sacrifice their spiritual, relational, and emotional lives to do it.  It might save us money but at what COST?  Say “NO” to any activity that interferes with your child connecting to God or with His Bride (The Church) or with healthy relationships within the family.  I knew a family once with 3 kids and they had practices and games 5 out of 7 nights a week and ate out almost every night.  They ate more in their mini-van then at the dinner table.  That is insane.

So make it the priority for your kids to be at church and other spiritual experiences (church camp is the #1 place where your child can grow closer to God in a short span and make relationships that last a lifetime).  Make it a priority to eat and talk together regularly.  Then you’ll have a lot less regrets.

One Thing Lifelong Partnerships Have in Common? COMMITMENT

Today’s culture tells us that all we need is love.  But in the end, love wasn’t even enough to keep the Beatles together.  It’s ironic that a band that sang such great love songs ultimately had no love for each other.  That’s because love is more than just a song, a dream, or feeling.

The commitments we make are like magnets: they pull toward each other.  In friendship, commitment means being there for someone even when it’s not convenient.  In family relationships it’s being by someone’s side even after years of dealing with a disappointing father or brother stuck in addiction.  In marriage, commitment means that divorce isn’t an option.